Cannes is the most glamorous city on the French Riviera (it seems fitting that one of its sister cities is Beverly Hills), full of extravagant villas, luxury hotels, pricey boutiques, racy beach clubs, and a wider range of good restaurants than you might expect.
While Cannes is pretty much a year-round resort these days, it gets particularly lively (and crowded) during its signature annual events, including the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival, the gigantic music-business trade show Midem, and — taking place this year from June 22 through 27 — the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. This event, which began life as the International Advertising Film Festival back in 1954 and settled permanently in Cannes 30 years later, is the world's largest and most prestigious annual gathering of advertising and marketing professionals and related designers and digital specialists. Its many awards honor the previous year's best work in advertising and communications across all platforms; screenings, seminars, workshops, and other activities fill out the program.
Besides all these professional activities, of course, attendees will have other concerns — for instance, where to eat. We polled our Riviera-savvy contributors and drew on our editors' personal experience to come up with this short list of nominees for our own Dining in Cannes awards.
Just from the name — which means "the gracious" or "the amiable" — you know you're going to like this warmly furnished, stylish restaurant, popular with visiting celebrities and local food-lovers alike. Chef–owner Jean-Paul Battaglia, who once cooked in New York at La Côte Basque, inherited a popular restaurant called Feu Follet, in Mougins, in the hills above Cannes, from his father-in-law, legendary restaurateur André Surmain (who founded another old New York classic French place, Lutèce) and ran it for 30 years before moving to Cannes not quite five years ago and opening this place. L'Affable uses local products whenever possible, but the food is more French-luxe than Provençale, with such dishes as white asparagus with morels, spicy lobster with penne pasta, and rack of lamb roasted with thyme. A $50 dinner menu, though, offers choices like terrine of foie gras or tartare of scallops and salmon as appetizers, roasted giant shrimp with creamy curry rice or roast beef with herbs as main courses, and Grand Marnier soufflé or apple clafoutis for dessert.
Au Pot du Vin
Speaking of amiable, the ever-agreeable Jean-Pierre Silva has had an unusual professional career: He and his wife ran a Michelin two-star restaurant in Burgundy (L'Hostellerie du Vieux Moulin in Bouilland), gave it up to open a two-person one-menu-daily place in their home in the hills above Cannes, moved down to Cannes itself to run a popular beachfront restaurant, and are now the proprietors of a wine shop (which offers, among other things, the best and largest selection of Burgundies on the Côte d'Azur), to which Jean-Pierre has appended a tiny bistro, with just 30 seats and a blackboard menu. Here, he elevates such unpretentious fare as assorted pâtés, escargots, simple pastas, roast pork loin, and apple tart with his long-honed skills. It goes without saying that the choice of wines is immense and wonderful. (Au Pot du Vin is closed on weekends.)
Aux Bons Enfants
This tiny, very Provençale bistro, founded in 1935 and now run by the grandson of the founder, has a limited menu (based on what looks best daily at the nearby Forville Market), doesn't take credit cards, and requires reservations, but they have to be made in person ("the phone here is permanently out of order," warns the restaurant's website). Oh, and the small wooden tables are bare and the napkins are paper. Yet this is one of the most popular little hideaways in Cannes; it's where many of the city's chefs stop on their way to or from the market, it has a strong local following, and even the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been seen here. What's the draw? Superb, simple, local fare — brandade of salt cod, daube de boeuf (the Provençale take on beef stew), stockfish (dried cod) Niçoise-style, and every Friday a "le grand aïoli" — an array of fish and vegetables with the garlicky mayonnaise that is one of the region's most famous gastronomic specialties.
La Mère Besson
On a small street across from La Croisette, the mile-plus-long beachfront promenade on which many of the city's glitziest shops, hotels, and restaurants are located, this modest but bustling 1930s-vintage bistro serves real French food, with local accents and otherwise. Fish soup, anchoïade (raw vegetables with anchovy sauce), terrine de foie gras, stuffed rabbit, veal kidneys in mustard sauce, roast baby chicken with pommes frites, roast rack of lamb, and garlicky estouffade (braised beef) are among the stars of the menu. Textbook perfect tapenade comes with the bread. Some regulars call this the best restaurant in town. Evenings can be very hectic here, and sometimes the service suffers a little; lunch is more tranquil, and every bit as good.
La Palme d'Or
The Palme d'Or, or Golden Palm, is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, and diners who are lucky enough to snag a table on this Palme d'Or's sublime terrace, overlooking the Mediterranean and the curve of La Croisette, while sipping a tart Provençale rosé and savoring chef Christian Sinicropi's sublime tuna belly with juniper and aniseed or Black Angus chateaubriand with confit shallots and potato mousseline, will definitely feel like prize-winners. Sinicropi brings a treasury of local flavors to this elegant dining room (the Art Déco-style interior is very nice, too, if the terrace is unavailable) in what is now officially called the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez — one of the city's grand old luxury palace hotels, and one that has had a sterling reputation for gastronomic excellence for decades. The chef's menu prose, it must be admitted, is a bit much ("The Red Mullet from the Rocks: Dynamic and progressive, it is an adventure in itself. The story takes its beginning with raw red mullet slices, seasoned and spiced up with a béarnaise sauce"), and the prices are more movie mogul than starlet (that tuna belly, for instance, is $90), but the food is really good and the setting is really glitteringly seductive, and, hey, this is Cannes, so a little excess doesn't seem out of place.
Restaurant Le Mesclun
Homey Provençale cooking is hard to beat, especially when you're in a place like Cannes — but sometimes you might be in the mood for something a little more, well, adventurous. This refined wood-paneled dining room, warmly lit, with good art on the walls and sumptuous table settings, does indeed serve its namesake mixed leaf salad, dressed with local olive oil and good balsamic vinegar, but it also produces such dishes as house-cured salmon with crispy fennel, anise cream, and cucumber juice; grilled red prawns with cold beet and olive oil soup and lemon eggplant; lobster in Champagne cream with young vegetables from the Forville Market; and chicken breast with creamy duck liver sauce and truffle risotto. The clientele tends to be well-dressed and sometimes famous, the service is excellent, and the $55 fixed-price menu is a bargain.